AMERICUS — With each new season comes new questions and new hopes for local baseball teams. Replacing key seniors from the previous season’s roster is always a challenge, but the opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate means that all goals and possibilities are still alive. Here is an in-depth look at our local area baseball teams as they head in the 2014 season:
2013 record: 8-15 overall, 6-8 region; fifth place in Region 1-AAAA
Last season the Americus-Sumter Panthers began their schedule with the goal of making the 2013 GHSA Class AAAA State Playoffs. The Panthers narrowly missed that goal by finishing in fifth place in the region with a 6-8 region record. The signature win of the season came on Senior Night in Americus on Apr. 17 when the Panthers defeated their biggest competition for the fourth and final playoff spot, Worth County, by a final score of 7-4.
This season, Head Coach Todd Vickery will have to replace a lot of senior talent from last year’s squad. Pitcher Bryce Benton, third baseman Cary Mallette, pitcher Cameron Smarr, and catcher Robert Lloyd will all be very difficult to replace as they were key members of Americus-Sumter’s success last season. The 2014 Panthers will not be without leadership, however, as several key players will also return to the diamond this season.
Senior pitcher/outfielder Jonathan Thomas, junior outfielder D.J. Harris, junior outfielder/pitcher Isaiah Ingram, junior catcher Justin Vickery, junior third baseman/pitcher Alex Gonzalez and eleventh grade outfielder Tim Wilson will lead a Panther team with a lot of young talent. Junior newcomers Will Griggs, Jataveus Harvey, and John Nguyen will be expected to play a big role for the Panthers in their new roles, as will sophomore Jacob Hicks. According to Vickery, this mix of newcomers and experienced players will be the key to success this season.
“We have a good mix of experience and youth. We lost seven starters from last year's team,” he said. “Our season is full of opportunity for some guys to compete for playing time, gain experience in new positions, and build for the future. The varsity is junior heavy, and we had a good turn out for our junior varsity. We have a couple of freshmen and sophomores who may get called up to varsity this season too.”
2013 record: 8-11 overall; fourth place in Region 3-AAA